In the Southern region of the United States youth hockey has grown leaps and bounds in a relatively short period of time.
In a little more than five years, youth hockey players from all over the south have improved their skill levels enough to be selected for junior teams, college squads, and prep schools.
This was unprecedented less than a decade ago.
Such a precipitous rise in player development and AAA national standings comes as a surprise to many, but the hard work of the players and the dedication of parents and coaches have contributed greatly to the continued growth of youth hockey in non-traditional markets like Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and North Carolina to name a few.
One factor that has been overlooked is the major contribution by local inline hockey organizations and major tournaments throughout the southern regions.
Unlike the North where youth players get a chance to ice skate on both indoor and outdoor rinks as a rule, southern kids do not have similar opportunities in Atlanta or Cary, North Carolina and other similar markets.
ECHO, TORHS, AAU, and NARCH have all seen some of their best inline player’s matriculate into elite ice hockey programs.
ECHO has carved out a unique presence by offering a variety of hockey programs to attract youth players to inline hockey.
ECHO Hockey is starting a 9U Roller Hockey House League at Jellybeans of Cary the week of March 17th. ECHO Hockey is also starting a Middle School Roller Hockey League. This is for School Teams in Northern Wake County and Johnston County, North Carolina. The league will start in Late February/Early March. ECHO Hockey is starting an Elementary School Street Hockey League at Jellybeans of Cary, NC in February of 2014. The league will be divided into Junior Varsity(K-2) and Varsity (grades 3-5). This is a league where the kids play for their school team. Girls and Boys are both welcome to participate as well as free agent players.
ECHO Hockey also runs local inline house leagues in Cary and Raleigh, North Carolina. In Cary, teams play at the local Jellybeans, in addition ECHO has Adult Leagues for Beginner and Intermediate players. They also run an Elementary School League in the winter for grades K-5.
In Raleigh, ECHO runs Inline House Leagues at the local Jellybeans for ages 7-15.
The continued success of Inline hockey and the organizations that support the effort are unsung heroes who are instrumental in inline hockey.
In a recent NARCH online poll 65% of respondents indicated that their youth inline players played some combination of ice hockey and inline. Only 34% of those polled played Inline exclusively.
Players like Connor Moore, who recently accepted a scholarship to Boston College was a prolific inline player as well as ice hockey performer for the Atlanta Fire AAA squad.
Connor skated in several tournaments and frequented the dual deck rinks in Snellville, Georgia.
It was on inline skates that he perfected a scorching slap-shot and nifty puck-handling skills.
Despite not having a year round ice surface to compete on youth players and parents have successfully found ways to keep themselves competitive and viable in multiple hockey venues.
Many have inline programs to thank for that.